Los Angeles Neighborhood of Silverlake Becomes a Star
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
The part of Los Angeles known as Silverlake used to be considered a dicey neighborhood. But in the last few years, decaying houses have been refurbished and trendy new shops have opened. Commentator Heather King introduces us to one person who's lived in Silverlake for a long time, and has watched the changes with a skeptical but loving eye.
Fred has had a checkered career: Rodeo rider, long-haul trucker, skid-row drunk.
KING: Fred manages an apartment building in Silverlake. Ten years ago when he moved into the neighborhood, it was a cheap place to live. Now it's been taken over by, as he puts it, the artsy-fartsy crowd.
FRED: They're hipsters, you know. They want to fit in somewhere.
KING: So what do they look like and what's their attitude?
FRED: You know what they look like. Christ, you've been around LA. The guys got the Brad Pitt haircut and a two-day growth, and the women got the little thick belts now, and, you know, they're hipsters, you know, they're real hip.
KING: Freddy sticks close to home, and I like hearing the details of his daily life: Tang's doughnuts(ph) at six every morning, the 3 AM runs to the Vons on Virgil for cigarettes. He's got so much invested in the neighborhood, it makes LA feel, for once, almost small-town. At the 16-unit building he refers to as the Edgecliff Estates, he frets and fumes--watching over the plumbing, the gas--and especially the people who rent from him.
FRED: I got some Pakis upstairs who work at the 7-Elevens. They're OK. They go to work, they come home, they share a little single, the two of them; they send money home every month, God bless them. And then I got some Spanish gal out in the front with her mom. I got a Chinese lady up here that's been here for 20 years, excuse me. She's real nice. I washed her car for her this morning. She gave me $5. I didn't want to take the money. I say, `I always do it.' And she says, `Oh, here, you take care of me.' And then I got one in the corner--oh, God, a little thing, you know, who looks like she is a little waif, but oh. First moved in, she moved a stove and a fridge. And I said, `What did you do that for?' She said, `Oh, the feng shui of the room was wrong.' I said, `Oh, man, it's too much.' You know? It's weird. Welcome to LA.
KING: Welcome to LA is one of Fred's favorite phrases. He uses it to describe the people who frequent the shops that have sprung up in the last few years down on Sunset: Fandango Hair, The Cheese Store of Silverlake, the Casbah Cafe.
FRED: Here, more than anywhere else, it's like, if you look good, oh, this person must be a good person. And some of them are real low-lives, real sleaze. Oh, a lot of them. But they got a nice car and they got a tie and leather coat on, or gals have real nice stuff. And people are taken back like, oh, wow, hey, that person's real nice, you know. They don't look beyond that image.
KING: Actually, it's not so much hipsters Fred has a thing against, but hypocrisy. He has an opinion about everyone who walks by, but he's the softest touch I know.
FRED: Today, I helped somebody out or gave somebody--you're talking about money. Hell, here's a couple of bucks. Some canner going down the street...
KING: What's a canner?
FRED: Some guy pushing a car, collects bottles and cans--a canner, you know? That's the name--a canner, you know? Some of them get real formal with you in LA--recycling specialists. I get...
KING: What, you gave him a couple bucks?
KING: Fred's always helping somebody--his tenants; the crack whores who hang out in front of Tang's; the down-on-his-luck Spanish guy who needs a couch for the night. And I don't care what the artsy-fartsy crowd says--now that's hip.
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BLOCK: Heather King lives in Los Angeles. She's the author of the book "Parched."
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BLOCK: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.
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